site unseen Old Station Museum, E16

you don't have to wear an anorak and stand on windswept platforms jotting down numbers to appreciate what the railways have meant to London. Despite being starved of funds, just compare how much we and the French spend on this vital part of the infrastructure - British Rail struggles valiantly to make the best of a bad job.

Our mainline stations such as St Pancras, Waterloo, Liverpool Street and Victoria are, of course, excellent examples of industrial architecture, even if their virtues are not immediately obvious to the harassed commuter. One of the capital's least-known gems is the North London Line - a "secret railway" which was so secret that for years it wasn't even shown on London Transport's maps.

The trains make a picturesque and delightful journey between Richmond in the west and North Woolwich in the east, introducing the passenger to parts of London known only to their residents: Brondesbury, Kensal Rise, Gospel Oak, Homerton. Suddenly, the old cliche that London is a collection of villages takes on a fresh and accurate meaning. When the weather is nice, it is tempting to lean out of the window and shake hands with the intrepid gardeners, beavering away on the allotments which border parts of the track.

The stations themselves are, if truth be known, a little seedy and dilapidated - with one major exception. Go to North Woolwich and the modern station has all the charm and elegance of a Portakabin. Alongside it, however, is a fine, Italianate two-storey building of the 1850s which was once the original terminus. Its size and style no doubt appealed to fashionable Victorian society patronising both the Thames ferries and the ballroom and theatre in nearby North Woolwich Gardens.

In 1970 the station closed, but instead of being pulled down it was sensitively converted into the Old Station Museum, one of the best of the capital's smaller museums. Packed full of railway memorabilia ranging from postcards, maps and posters to the old trucks and engines which can be examined outside, the museum fascinates buff and non-buff alike. It is open daily, except Fridays.

Prominent Conservatives who scorn public transport have probably never even heard of the North London Line, let alone travelled on it. The secret railway could become the invisible railway for all they care.

The Old Station Museum is a reminder of a time when transport could evoke feelings of pride and identity. Somehow the M25 isn't quite the same.

Old Station Museum is on Pier Road, North Woolwich, E16

Andrew John Davies

Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Arts and Entertainment
Crowd control: institutions like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are packed

Art
Arts and Entertainment
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices